March 20, 2023

Restructuring REHS Facilities: Being the Best at Delivering Outstanding Spartan Experiences

The Residence Education and Housing Services (REHS) Facilities unit at Michigan State University is being restructured to offer a better Spartan experience for everyone on campus. The department includes 35 leadership and supervisory staff, along with 200 frontline and administrative staff. Charles Stephen, associate director for REHS, works with the teams that service the 27 residence halls on MSU’s campus and shares what the REHS restructuring project entails and the progress it has made. 

Residential Facilities has taken a “new, people-centric approach to their work,” says Stephen, wherein they’re working to identify how to ensure efficiency serves everyone, from staff and students to stakeholders. The second part of the process involves evaluating duties, processes and structures to identify the best course of action for the unit as a whole. In the past year, 26 positions have been added to the unit in an effort to meet staffing demands of legitimizing the second shift.  

Marque Black, associate director for REHS, also highlighted efficiency as a key part of the restructuring project. Black talked about the various steps REHS is taking to rework its infrastructure, including adding more people to it, moving people into roles that fit them best, getting more eyes on operations and spreading out responsibilities. 

“Delivering outstanding Spartan experiences” is what it is all about, says Black. He mentions they are already seeing positive results of their work in the form of quicker maintenance request response times and effective and direct communication and customer service to residents. 

REHS, as a whole, is reinvesting in its people. The department aims to “recruit, retain and develop talented staff, leverage [their] resources safely and responsibly, and adeptly meet the needs of [their] students, families and guests,” says Stephen. 

Not only is Residential Facilities training frontline workers on safety and technical procedures, but it is also working on interpersonal and identity-conscious training. There is also a focus on automating where possible and incorporating the latest technological advancements in the field to maximize efficiency.

Black says that with the planning underway and personnel being brought in, it’s only going up from here. 

“The bar is going to keep rising,” he says. “And we have to keep changing our style and adapting to our residents to maintain our commitment to provide excellent Spartan experiences.” 

That is the vision. He says in his area of work, he believes in three C’s: competency, consistency and champions. Competency involves learning enough about the job to be able to teach it to others. It requires becoming proficient and becoming the best at what they do. Next comes consistency, which involves “taking what we do and being awesome at it and then keep being awesome at it.” Black believes in then taking the first two C’s and tying them into being champions. The important part, he says, is not being able to do a job, but being able to do it the best way possible. 

The restructuring project is in the planning and evaluation phase with a focus on “positively affecting the lived and work environment for our students, guests and staff,” says Stephen. While some decisions, like staffing models, can be evaluated and made internally, most others that impact student experience require REHS to “engage multiple partners within the matrix organization that is Michigan State University.” REHS does not believe in making decisions unilaterally and works to continually engage students and other stakeholder organizations within the university. “It truly is a collective effort,” says Stephen. 

“It’s not a small group,” adds Black. “It’s everyone from the faculty to Student Leadership & Engagement, to IPF [Infrastructure Planning and Facilities]. We all have a part to play in terms of the success of every resident and student here.” 

He mentions they regularly meet with Infrastructure and Planning Facilities to help create both residential and academic spaces within MSU buildings. With faculty and classrooms in residence halls, the focus is on balancing the two aspects of those spaces efficiently and keeping the consistency right in helping residents and students in being happy, safe and, ultimately, to graduate. Classrooms and bathrooms are cleaned every day along with hallways. REHS also coordinates with dining hall teams to make sure they’re getting everything they need to function well. They also meet with the Residence Halls Association and student groups that are in the halls to understand what more can be done to strengthen student experiences.

Black says the REHS team is always trying to figure out ways to strengthen how they carry out job responsibilities. Restructuring is an ongoing process, as they continue to keep providing students what they need and asking whether they are delivering it efficiently and consistently. This constant feedback loop is how they examine the efficacy of the everyday work of their unit, department and division. Receiving feedback from the student body and residents is the key to development and betterment. That feedback is taken back to the table for further discussion on how positive and effective change can be created from it. From top leadership including Vennie Gore, senior vice president for Student Life & Engagement (SLE) to every member of the SLE team, they all continue to keep thinking, brainstorming and collecting ideas on the best way to deliver the outstanding Spartan experiences in the most efficient way. 

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